SURREY, B.C. - The case of a rancher who has been missing in British Columbia since January is being treated as a suspicious disappearance by the RCMP.

Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says members of the southeast district major crime unit have reviewed the evidence that has been collected since Ben Tyner went missing and have determined the case may involve criminal activity.

Tyner, who is 32, was the manager of the Nicola Ranch, about 300 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, and was last seen on Jan. 26 as he rode out on horseback, possibly to search for cattle in the surrounding hills.

He was reported missing two days later when his saddled horse was found wandering on a logging road off Highway 97 northwest of Merritt.

An extensive search that included RCMP and volunteers on foot and horseback, as well as in helicopters, vehicles and snowmobiles, found no trace of Tyner.

Shoihet says early on investigators requested assistance from major crime detectives, but until this week police had said their was no indication of foul play.

"Now having had the opportunity to review all the pieces, we believe that the circumstances surrounding Mr. Tyner's disappearance may involve criminality," Shoihet said Tuesday.

Shoihet would not reveal details but she said the latest announcement "reinvigorates" the investigation.

Officers are asking people who may have information but haven't spoken to police to come forward.

"That one missing piece might be something you think is insignificant, but could really be the turn-key piece of information for an investigation like this," Shoihet said in a telephone interview.

Before they left for their home in Wyoming in mid-February, Tyner's family renewed their plea for any tips that might help the police investigation into his disappearance.

"Our hearts are shattered and our lives have been thrown into turmoil,"Tyner's mother Jennifer told a news conference at the time.

"To think that I will never again see his smile, or hear his infectious laugh, never see him realize his dreams, never have him wrap his arms around me again, is unthinkable."